The controversy of truth in memoir is as old as the genre itself. Some critics say memoir should be a factual account of what actually happened, while others are willing to allow more creative interpretations. Scientific research shows that memory is biologically prone to distortion, making pure truth an unattainable goal. But in the hands of a skillful writer, distortions of memory can unlock more truth than memory itself.
This session aims to address two questions: what happens in our brains when our memories are distorted and how can we, as memoirists, use these distortions to convey meaning to the reader? Wendy will present a brief overview of the work of Harvard psychologist Daniel Schacter, who has identified seven miscues of memory. As a group, we will examine the works of writers who have successfully used memory distortion as literary technique and discuss what the scientific research regarding memory malfunction means for the genre of memoir. A short writing exercise will follow if time permits.